Kane In Your Corner: Prosecutors probe fraud in heating assistance program
The Mercer County Prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into allegations of fraud in the county's Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), one month after a Kane In Your Corner investigation featured a whistleblower who'd been trying to report alleged abuses for six years.
Dennis Kerrigan worked for the Mercer County agency that administered that county's LIHEAP and Weatherization programs. He says he saw money intended for low-income families instead go to people who were anything but poor. Kerrigan first blew the whistle six years ago but had trouble finding anyone to take him seriously. The New Jersey Attorney General's Office received his complaint and almost immediately dismissed it, citing a lack of evidence. The U.S. Department of Energy thought there was something to investigate, so it referred Kerrigan's complaint to the Mercer County prosecutor, who failed to open a file.
But last month, the New Jersey comptroller found problems at a LIHEAP agency in Middlesex County, including benefits being paid to people whose income was too high, Social Security numbers of recipients going unchecked, even benefits being paid to individuals using the Social Security numbers of dead people. Some of the complaints were eerily similar to the ones Kane In Your Corner had heard from Kerrigan in neighboring Mercer County. Now, the investigation he first asked for all those years ago is finally happening, but it may not give him the outcome he desires.
Casey DeBlasio, a spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, confirms "Our office opened an investigation based on Mr. Kerrigan's complaint," but adds, "While the investigation is open and ongoing, at this point preliminary indications are the allegations are unsubstantiated."